The White House required journalists to RSVP to President Joe Biden’s Monday speech on Afghanistan because they wish to enforce social distancing to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
Despite Biden addressing the nation in the East Room of the White House, which notably, is bigger than the press briefing room, where the entirety of the press corps is permitted daily without the enforcement of social distancing, the president’s remarks on Afghanistan had more stringent COVID-19 restrictions, according to RealClearPolitics.
The East Room is 3,000 square feet and can hold hundreds of people while the White House press briefing rooms only has 49 seats and ended social distancing restrictions back in June.
This comes despite 99.6 percent of the White House press corps being fully vaccinated against the coronavirus and only a single person in Washington, D.C. dying from the virus during the month of August.
However, the White House denying several members of the press corps access to Biden is not exclusive to his Afghanistan speech on Monday. Reporters have frequently been excluded from the president’s remarks in the past as the White House communications team has hand-picked who is allowed to attend press conferences because of “spacing constraints,” according to the New York Post.
“This president has never made himself available to the open press in an open atmosphere, and the East Room is where those usually occur,” Brian Karem, a veteran Playboy correspondent, told the Post. “This administration is being disingenuous in telling us that there’s limited availability and therefore we can’t get in.”
Reporters who wish to attend a Biden forum are expected to electronically RSVP to the event. White House staff will then select a small number of journalists to attend along with the rotating daily press pool.
The White House has previously alleged that reporters who RSVP to the president’s events will be selected on a first come, first serve basis, but correspondent have disputed that claim.
Under former President Donald Trump, any White House reporter could attend events in the East Room.